Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 22, June 1978


By Edwin Heath

Some time back a passage in the Waihi "Gazette" regarding the "rediscovery" of the waterfalls on the stream that flows into the sea at the Northern end of the Orakawa Beach, was of great interest to me.

Back in the late summer of 1953, the Waihi Beach Scouts, under their Scoutmaster, Mr S. Whaley, now of Waihi Crescent, trekked up to the Devils Elbow on the road to Waihi, then inland onto Mr Bill Otway's farm, turning northward and climbing the Trig Station on the hills behind the Waihi Beach Reservoir. Midmorning break was taken at this point and the troop was split into two parties - the younger boys being taken by Mr Whaley onto the approach to Whitikareo Pa, then turning south back down the ridge towards Waihi Beach and the Oeopu Pa. At the lowest point on this ridge they turned south on to the "Maori Trail" and thence to the Orakawa Beach.

Meanwhile the remaining five or six of us followed a then new fence line down a shallow ridge to the north. This ridge marks the seaward boundary of a small depression or upland basin. Actually we left this fence-line turning inland across a large slip, chasing goats and this brought us to the head of a small but surprisingly high waterfall.

The headwaters issued out of this basin through a channel in solid granite and just back from the lip of the falls are one or two deep cavities large enough to bathe in completely.

Looking out and down from the top of the falls, the valley containing the outlet stream runs north some fifty or sixty yards to join the main Orakawa stream running from west (Heard's Farm) to east (the sea). The sides of this valley are almost vertical and heavily wooded, but from above, the floor of the valley appeared sandy and fairly level.

Viewed from the bottom of the valley, the falls seemed to be about 100' high - the first stage falls some 80' into a large pool, big enough to take a garage, then falling a further 20' to the valley floor. Attempts to climb up into this pool failed.

Following this we followed the stream down to the sea and rejoined the rest of the troop.

One further feature of interest is a grey granite wall of some 50' - 60' high, 50 - 70 yards long on the northern side of the stream above the junction made with the branch of the creek that runs in from the back of Homunga. In fact, the valley that contains this branch can be viewed from the hills at the northern end of the Orakawa Beach where the track comes in from Waihi Beach.

The next visit I made was many years later in the company of Mr Bill Andrews, one of the original five scouts - we decided to explore the main branch of the stream running inland from the above-mentioned falls.

This part of the stream runs through a series of steep, narrow, rocky channels in the valley floor with nikau palms growing along the banks of this solid rock ditch.

Some 200 yards further inland there is another series of falls in three steps of approximately 25' each in height, with a flow of water about twice that of the other falls.

The stream from the top of these falls seems to run back up into Heard's farm ending in a blind valley with very steep walls - we climbed out by grasping the bases of the trees above while standing on the roots of those below.

From the top it is only a short walk through Heard's farm back to the approaches to the Whitikareo Pa, thence through the Oeopu Pa and down to the Waihi Beach coming out of the scrub on the ridges behind the tennis courts.

Place names can provide a valuable link with the past - a link that seems to have been overlooked in Waihi Beach.

Research into the history of this area reveals that it was once on the main highway between Thames and Tauranga. Sir James Hooton panned gold in small quantities from the Waihi Stream, the Orakawa Stream and Frasers Creek (1870). The "Wires" may have followed this track - some of the original poles having been incorporated in the cowshed on Heard's Farm. During the last War, American Provost Police attempted to search this area looking for deserters.

This land is now a Crown Reserve, but my feeling is that the names given to the various waterfalls should be connected with the history of the area and its people - the Ngaiterangi who occupied the Waihi Beach and the Ngatimatu who inhabited the hills.

Unfortunately, there has been insufficient time to delve fully into the history of these people - who undoubtedly had names for these falls, but the names given to the Pa's and the stream give an indication as to the interdependence of these features in the Maori history of the area.

Below are some Maori place names that I know used to apply to the Waihi Beach, and I have tried to describe their present day location.

Okori Bay

The main point between Orakawa - Shark (Okori) Bay.

Oeopu Pa

At the confluence of the ridges running from Okori Point and then from the present Water Works Reservoir. Consisted originally of two rows of palisades and earthworks surrounding some 15-20 acres.

Whitikareo Pa

A Ngatimaru stronghold, extensive fortifications remains of which some are still fairly visible from Oeopu Pa. Whitikareo is situated behind Orakawa Beach, more towards the Northern end.

Kuroumia Pa

The fortified Ngaiterangi Pa at Bowentown.

Koutanui, Maneanui, Timata

Other Pas.


The workshop in the sandhills from which the Gilbert Mair collection came.


Near the site of Pio’s Beach settlement.


A carving Pa in the swamp - the Waihi Beach Hotel is situated about 50 yds from this spot - artefacts were found while excavating the knoll to form the road across the swamp.